by Sabine, General Manager
On October 1st, 2019 we had our first meeting, the first meeting between 11 future entrepreneurial friends. Above all, we needed to get to know each other, to share our various experiences in order to better identify and combine our strengths. Very quickly, we forged close ties. United, we were ready to live this adventure, with our coaches who push us beyond our limits and motivate us ever more each day.
After each meeting, one member of the team has to make a 2 minute video summary of the meeting. These videos allow us to check that everyone understands the essential points and give us the opportunity to practice explaining our project and communicating in an impactful way. There are some examples in the video below.
We used the method of design thinking to come up with our project idea.
The first step was the research phase and empathizing with or understanding ourselves. The aim was to find out what drives and motivates each of us as individuals and as a team. In our discussions, one element often came up, an urgent imperative that we could not escape. We were all aligned around one idea: the climate situation is dramatic. Our motivation and shared values led us to choose a focus with environmental impact. We then opted for technology as the ideal medium for change and results, especially for young people of generation Z. So we began our research on these two elements.
After doing some research, we shared our results during our brainstorming sessions with the aim of converging towards a more precise idea.
Alongside the Echooo project, I am taking drama classes and I was hoping to be able to use some of the soft skills learnt in these classes in an entrepreneurial context, especially in pitching. I was eager to put my experience to the service of the mini but I was very surprised that it was finally during the brainstorming sessions that I was most able to use my creativity and inspiration to bounce ideas off my classmates. The structured and interconnected framework of the mini taught me simultaneously to identify and better structure my ideas.
The connected trash can concept was finally pitched on the 15th October! Our idea was born. It had emerged as the obvious solution, as the missing piece of the puzzle for more sustainable consumption. After a lot of research and reflection, our motivation had paid off.
The very next day, buoyed by the enthusiasm of having found our project for the year (perhaps for years to come as we were secretly already hoping), I got ready to pitch our idea. Though it was not yet even really finalized, I wanted to get the first impressions of my family and friends. I was delighted to receive lots of enthusiastic comments and some preliminary ideas, especially on the design of the trash can. This motivated me enormously to forge ahead with the project!
Once our idea was chosen, we started the design thinking cycle again by repeating the research and understanding phase.
This time, the understanding that mattered to us was that of potential consumers. We had the idea, now we had to put it before our target audience. We did this through networking, via meetings, conferences and events where we shared our vision as much as possible. This step was essential because it allowed us to gather criticism and expert feedback. The advice from experts helped us to develop our solution. Throughout the year, we continued gathering feedback and this also enabled us to expand our network and establish partnerships.
For example, we went to Startup World, an event organized by the Student Entrepreneur Club at Solvay to immerse ourselves in the startup ecosystem. There we met qualified entrepreneurs who gave us advice and shared contacts, as well as other solutions that also have an impact on the environmental and/or society.
During the first months of the year, we participated in about ten events per month. As we met more and more people, we also met the same people several times, creating ever stronger bonds.
by Filip, Prospect Manager
Always with the idea of better understanding our market, we visited about fifty companies (MediaMarkt, BNP Paribas Fortis, Amsit VBR, L’hôpital Saint-Luc, european dynamics Belgium SA, Yxe SA, etc.) to observe and analyse their operations and see how their employees interacted with waste management.
The goal was to verify that our project met a real need, and that it fit the market. Our questionnaire consisted of about 20 questions, and it was found that employees were not really knowledgeable about waste management. Their relationship to waste is very much limited to the trash can under their desk where all types of waste are mixed, without recycling. In addition, we were often redirected to cleaners who were rarely aware of issues relating to sorting waste.
Many employees told us they wanted to get involved but were unsure how to do so. Some companies told us that the topic of ecology had already been discussed in meetings but that they had not been able to take any concrete action.
It was through discussions with these companies that we were able to figure out what adjustments were necessary. We were able to gather ideas for new functionalities and understand, for example, how important it was for companies to collect data about the impact of visitors on their waste production.
What emerged from our survey on waste in the workplace was that waste was insufficiently sorted and poorly monitored and that employees often felt uninvolved. Overall, companies were unaware of the weight of their waste production.
In order to get to know our market, we had to identify our direct and indirect competitors. Our direct competitors are classic brands like Eko or Brabantia that produce trash cans, and brands like R3D3 or bin-e that produce connected trash cans. We differentiate ourselves from them in particular by the work on the design of our product as well as our focus on each employee. Indeed, through our application, we accompany each employee in his or her process of reconnecting to his or her consumption. Our focus on business models and a subscription formula also makes us more flexible and competitive.
All initiatives that target a more sustainable world are our indirect competitors. However, we quickly realized that they might also be our partners.
During a brainstorming session shortly after the discovery of our connected trash can idea, one of the most popular names for our project was “Mr. Bin”. Luckily, even before we analysed our competition, we discarded this name as this pun obscured the essential link we needed between our name and our mission. It also seemed important to us to have a clearer and more corporate branding to facilitate our positioning towards our target audience.
#FEASIBILITY AND FINANCIAL STUDY
After making our first prototype, we placed it in a company called Tourelle Reality in order to analyse their initial interactions.
After various feedback, we launched a second prototype, developing our step-by-step solution with market and beta tester feedback. The development of the prototypes gave us better insight into the costs, allowing us to refine our financial assumptions. The company’s shares financed production of our prototypes the tune of €400. To be able to continue, we decided to launch a crowdfunding initiative, through which we raised the modest sum of €7,030.
We did a keyword study to identify those most often used by companies. Using Google tools such as Google Adwords and Trends, we were able to identify the most appropriate words in our sector such as: zero waste, consumption, reduce impact, data, footprint, etc.. They are at the base of our branding and our communication and we keep them front of mind to ensure we stay on our defined trajectory.
We have deliberately avoided using certain words such as “ecology” and its derivatives. With the current economic crisis and revival simultaneously affecting the business environment, so-called ecological values and goals should no longer be exceptions but requirements. Since our concern for ecology was so very obvious in our project, we did not want to put forward this notion unnecessarily but rather value what makes us unique. The same goes for the word “innovative” which we found was over-used, misused and abused. It had lost its meaning, and would make us lose our specificities.
We sparked the interest of the start-up incubator The Space when we pitched at the Pecha Kucha competition they organized. With the technological aspect of our solution, the solidarity and society focused vision of our project and the motivation and enthusiasm of our young team, The Space showed interest in helping us develop. We were able to be incubated at their place and made the most of their premises, advice and the technologies that they put at our disposal to prototype our trash can.
The first day we arrived at The Space, at what was going to be our HQ for the rest of the year as an incubated project , we were overexcited but above all so amazed that we didn’t dare interact with, or even greet the employees for fear of disturbing them. After several months of a partnership rich in learning and accomplishments, we have forged genuine bonds with them and this is only the start.
The construction of our project did not happen in a vacuum. We were supported by experts from various fields such as Skirmysh, Phenomen and The Space for the technology, our social networks and branding, in addition of course to our coaches who follow us every step of the way. We also received valuable advice during the meetings with experts organized by LJE and during the training sessions, we attended. The contacts made during company events and competitions were also essential drivers of our progress. Through these meetings, we were significantly able to improve elements of our business model and our targeting strategy.
by Claudia, Brand Manager
An echo is a noise that resonates and spreads just as our mission spreads to introduce new habits and new ways to reach zero waste. We want to encourage an alternative behaviour, viable alternatives for a future in which we are all reconnected with our consumption. It is about making the echo of this new way of life resonate within everyone. The 3 “O’s”, like 3 little dots, represent resonance but also continuity. Our mission obviously requires daily support and long-term commitment. Each act taken, each step forward has cascading consequences. “Echooo” therefore also symbolizes this idea of a never-ending evolution. Unlike waste that has to be absorbed, these steps leave marks, indelible footprints, which do not obstruct our path, but rather allow us to stay on course. The metaphor in our name is pushed to its limit in the design of our 3 trash cans, one for each type of waste, each of which has the “O” symbol from our name on their lids.
We set ourselves the challenge of learning to pitch our project. For 2 weeks, we had to explain to our friends and family the meaning of our name. The goal was to be able to pitch our whole project from our name the gateway to understand our vision, mission and values. As we practiced, each personal’s pitch method spread to others in the team and without realizing it, we all ended up basically using the same methods.
The notion of the footprint/fingerprint is truly representative of our project; our name and logo both derive from it, but that is not all. Firstly, in a literal sense, the digital fingerprint represents technology, a way for us to raise awareness in a modern and attractive way. Then, there is the imprint that our project will leave on human relations. Thanks to our gamification aspect and the fact that we are aiming to reach all levels of each company, each employee will propagate this behaviour at home and in their family lives. This human imprint on society, added to the environmental footprint, are the two factors we want to influence.
The colours for our logo were the subject of debate at the beginning of our journey. Initially we set out with “electric blue”, representing the Echooo waves that we wanted to broadcast. Finally though, we all came together behind our current colours: black, design and efficient, which represents the fingerprint; white, pure and neutral, creating the link and common ground between people for a new start representing the human imprint; then turquoise green, which obviously represents the environmental footprint.
It was essential, physically as well as visually, that out image reflect our ideas and values. We therefore designed our own polo shirts to reflect our identity. Our polo shirts are more than just a shirt: in addition to our logo, they also have a small pocket on the chest where you can slip in any waste found at events, symbolising the fact that we are looking for alternatives in waste management.
For other outfits, we wanted to be original and above all in line with our values. We had all sorts of ideas, each one more eccentric than the other to the point where we decided to go to the LJE Congress dressed as a cardboard trash can! However we were quickly stopped by one of our coaches who judged our idea “too original”. Fortunately, we decided to integrate our trash can idea into our outfits in a different way, in the form of a pocket this time!
We focused on social networks that best suited our target audience. Firstly Linkedin as a professional social network where we could research prospects and customers. Indeed, the vast majority of companies and their employees are a part of this network. Secondly, Facebook and Instagram became cornerstones of our digital marketing strategy since, in addition to being among the most popular in the world, they allow us to post regular visual content, video formats and stories to highlight and diffuse our values.
Initially few members of the mini had Facebook or LinkedIn accounts. Therefore, once we had fully defined our project, we all created our accounts and took the time to familiarize ourselves with the various features and opportunities that these networks offer. Echooo allowed us to explore a new reality via these new channels, networks, and paths creating.
We very quickly launched a landing page to professionalize our approach and give visibility to our communications.
We continue to improve our site, collecting as always, varied opinions and advice, analysing the bounce rate and interactions with the information posted and with the calls to action etc. The initial landing page has become a full website, developed with and for our market and partners. On it we highlight our identity, our solution and all the steps we have already taken and those to come.
To explain the journey of how our trash can was conceived, for fairs we prepared a stand with an explanation of every aspect of our product, including our apps and demonstrations of how our trash can works, to an explanation of our B2B services. We also included a fun game for the stand reminiscent of the gamification aspect of our app. We tell a story out at every stage to immerse the visitor in our project and do more than just wait for change, we provoke it. At fairs, rather than just waiting for people to come to our stand, we use various strategies and activities to draw visitors to us. Our stand is a journey, just like the journey we have experienced as entrepreneurs, and just like the one the employees and companies we guide will experience, that of a new, modern and eco-responsible approach.
I was responsible for the creation of our stand and, as it had to rise to the occasion, we embarked on a complex set of ambitious designs. Luckily, we were able to find partners and friends to help us with the manual tasks but I pulled three all-nighters one week just to make sure everything was ready and that all the details were perfect. While working through the night I had to try to make as little noise as possible so as not to wake up the neighbours with banging and echoes (this time disturbing echoes!)
Continue reading about the next steps of this 3-part journey exploring the step by step construction of the Echooo project…